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Bethesda Minor Left Unattended By Airline Staff

12-year-old found her own way to connecting flight

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Parents are questioning United Airlines' policy of outsourcing unaccompanied minor escort services after their children were left alone at airports this summer.
Dan Kunitz:
  Parents are questioning United Airlines' policy of outsourcing unaccompanied minor escort services after their children were left alone at airports this summer.

United Airlines is coming under fire from some parents and travel advocates for outsourcing a program that escorts minors flying alone from one flight to another. On at least two occasions recently, young girls have been left alone at busy airports because the escort failed to show up. 

John Galbreath of Bethesda paid United Airlines a $99 fee so his 12-year-old daughter, Charlotte, who was flying alone from Wyoming, would be escorted to her connecting flight at Chicago's O'Hare airport. Charlotte arrived successfully at Reagan National Airport Sunday, although her father was more than a little upset. 

"Ninety-nine [dollars] for peace of mind, which I didn't get," Galbreath said. "They outsource it to a third party, the meeting of the passenger."

No one met her at the gate in Chicago, Charlotte said. "I just kind of looked at the screen and went where I was supposed to," she said. 

This past June, Phoebe Klebahn, a 10-year-old girl flying alone on United Airlines from San Francisco to her summer camp in Michigan, was left to wander for two hours because her escort didn't show up at the gate. Her parents, Anne and Perry Klebahn, got a frantic call from camp staff to say their daughter wasn't on the flight. 

When they called United's customer service, they were directed to a call center in India and kept on hold for 40 minutes as they waited, terrified, to hear their daughter's fate, the girl's parents wrote in an angry letter sent to United.

Phoebe was found unharmed. Meanwhile, Galbreath and United confirm he’ll get his $99 back.


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